Blu-ray Today: Firestarter, Dracula, Universal Monsters, Godzilla and Megalon

By Luke Y. Thompson in DVDs
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

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They Came Together - There is a lot of stuff coming out on Blu-ray today that's in our wheelhouse, but a whole lot of it is also mediocre-to-crap; as such, the best release of the week is this skewering of romantic comedy tropes by The State's David Wain. For my money, this is not only superior to his Wet Hot American Summer, but almost on a par with the best of the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker spoof movies, with a similar formula: throw as many jokes as you can out there with such rapid-fire intensity that some of them will hit, all while spoofing tropes rather than scenes from specific movies. There's a bit where Paul Rudd goes into a bar after a bad day - involving the bartender's absolutely literal responses to the phrases "Tell me about it" and "You can say that again" - that's one of the funniest damn things I've seen in a year that also gave us Will Arnett's Lego Batman and Batista as autistic Drax.

So don't be fooled by the cover art - this is pure comedy of the absurd, with Rudd and Amy Poehler just good-looking enough to pass for chick-flick stars, but also just off-kilter and weird enough to play in the no-rules universe that rips every modern rom-com cliche to shreds.



The rest of today's major releases are, for the most part, all about MONSTERS! Let's do this a little differently, and break them down by type rather than title.

The Classics:

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Before Skeletor, before Nixon, Frank Langella was Dracula...on Broadway and in this filmed version by John Badham, featuring Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. His is often considered to be one of the sexier versions, which, depending upon your tastes, may or may not mean much when your principal competitors are Jack Palance, Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman. If you prefer Lugosi, however, he's available to you too on Blu today, as all the Universal monster movies previously included in a box set are now available singly: Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera (1943 Claude Rains version), The Wolf Man, The Mummy and The Invisible Man are the others. Chances are if you like one you like them all - but if that's not the case, today's your day to pick and choose.

The Corny:

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When a movie about a giant undersea beetle god fighting a kid-designed giant robot failed to test as well as Toho had hoped, they shoehorned in a hastily built Godzilla and Gigan to make it a tag team match (the cinematic equivalent of Randy Savage and Brutus Beefcake being added to Hulk Hogan vs. Zeus bouts to save them from being absolutely terrible). The result is Godzilla vs. Megalon, which today is a fan favorite among Godzilla buffs who prefer their kaiju campy.

Godzilla should have been added to Casper, though I don't know if even he could defeat a dead kid. Instead, Christina Ricci engages in PG-rated pre-necrophilia with the Friendly Ghost, as concerned father Bill Pullman and appropriately named spirits Stretch, Fatso and Stinky look on. I've never actually seen Firestarter, but particularly nowadays it's really, really hard for me to find Drew Barrymore frightening. Whatever it is she's being blackmailed with to keep costarring with Adam Sandler - THAT'S gotta be something truly terrifying.

And you can't make me watch R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend?.

The Modern:

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I've seen more of these films than is good for a person. The Watcher, featuring a rare villainous turn from Keanu Reeves, amply demonstrates why such roles are, indeed, rare for him. The Return, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, is just godawful and a total letdown as a horror movie - the kind of film you make when your agents just want you to do more like The Grudge and don't actually look at the script. White Noise is just a waste of Michael Keaton, while I hear The People Under the Stairs is good, though I skipped it because Shocker burned me out on Wes Craven's supposed genius 'round about that time.

It'll take quite a bit to convince me Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is worth my time, but kudos on timing its release to Ebola being in the headlines, guys.


In other, mostly non-monstrous stuff: the terrible looking Heavenly Sword animated movie is finally out, there's a Gatchaman sequel that has nothing whatsoever to do with bird costumes, and a Vampire Diaries spin-off I don't care about gets its first Blu-ray set.

So, those are my top picks for this week. What major omissions did I make?


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